RI budget will overhaul state tourism spending

RI State House May 2016_304270

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The $8.9 billion proposed budget Rhode Island lawmakers unveiled this week has several tax and fee cuts , including cuts for retirees and certain employees.

After going through the proposal, Eyewitness News found it makes a pretty big overhaul to the state’s tourism spending, following the ‘Cooler and Warmer’ debacle.

The budget has stripped $1 million in tourism dollars from the Commerce Corporation – and will send it back to local tourism agencies for one year.

Bob Billington, who leads the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, said the move will award some many back to his agency.

“It would return to us about $40,000,” he said. “Newport would be several hundred thousand. South County probably around the same area.”

That money – in the form of hotel tax revenues – was originally taken from local councils, from Commerce’s $5 million statewide tourism campaign.

In a news release, lawmakers said the proposed budget move comes as Commerce “reorganizes” its campaign.

“It’s been difficult for us to try and figure out how to make up that money. But I’m disappointed for Commerce because we were finally happy to see the state have a budget,” Billington said.

He said Blackstone Valley’s $40,000 would be used for program development.

“For us, it’s program development and trying to get programs that people can attend and come to, and promotion,” he said.

Billington said the money would also help fill vacant positions that support the promotional mission.

The full House is set to debate and vote on the budget on Wednesday.

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